Welby aims to compete Wonga 'out of existence'

The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby.
The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby. Photo: Rui Vieira/PA Wire

The Archbishop of Canterbury has told payday loan firm Wonga that the Church of England wants to "compete it out of existence" by supporting credit unions.

The Most Rev Justin Welby, who has served on the Parliamentary Banking Standards Commission, said the church plans to:

  • Expand credit unions
  • Encourage church members with relevant skills to volunteer at credit unions
  • Invite local lenders to use church buildings and other community locations

He told Total Politics magazine the church's plan is to create “credit unions that are both engaged in their communities and are much more professional – and people have got to know about them.”

ITV News business editor Laura Kuenssberg reports:

But tonight the Church of England called for an investigation into its own pension fund after the Financial Times (£) found it "indirectly invests" in Wonga.

The fund admitted to the newspaper it invests in Accel Partners, a US venture capital firm that led the fundraising for Wonga in 2009.

A Lambeth Palace spokesperson said:

We will be asking the Assets Committee of the Church Commissioners to investigate how this has occurred and to review the holding in this pooled investment vehicle.

We will also be requesting the Church Commissions to investigate whether there are any other inconsistencies as normally all investment policies are reviewed by the Ethical Investment Advisory Group (EIAG).

Wonga founder Errol Damelin, who met the Archbishop recently, said they had a "mutual respect, some differing opinions and a meeting of minds on many big issues".

"On the competition point, we always welcome fresh approaches that give people a fuller set of alternatives to solve their financial challenges. I'm all for better consumer choice," Mr Damelin added.